COGNITIVE: Analyze, synthesize, use inductive and deductive reasoning, solve problems effectively and creatively

artifact: (ed 690) Instrument of Implementation Problem Solving Job-Aid


In ED 690, Methods of Inquiry, Professor Bober divided the class in to groups of two students each, based on our shared research interests. I was matched with Diana Odom because of our common interest in examining multiple approaches to the Problem Solving process. We identified a research approach, developed appropriate instruments, produced and analyzed the data and presented our findings. To service this study we developed several instruments of implementation and I have selected one of these to represent the Cognitive Standard in my portfolio.

This study was designed to analyze Problem Solving skills in pre-service SDSU education students contrasting two different approaches to Problem Solving: Experiential and Referential.  We presented the two groups with identical problems in the form of a simple case study and asked them to apply their respective approaches to four objectives we had identified as inherent to successful Problem Solving.  The members of the Referential Group, were asked to respond to these four objectives autonomously and were to access no outside resources other than a color-coded job-aid, identical to the artifact linked to this page. 

Challenges & Opportunities

The Problem Solving Job-Aid was a crucial instrument in this study. A number of assumptions were to be made on the premise that this was a valid instrument, and it required significant research to develop.  The final product was the synthesis of four standards modified from a Problem Solving Rubric, originally developed by the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Our rubric also contained four standards and the job-aid was designed to assist the user in satisfying each by chunking the achievement of each standard's objective into a series of processes representing best practices within each of these four domains. This presented a significant challenge.  Problem solving, for all its merit, is still an un-exact science.  There are multiple theories regarding what constitutes successful problem solving. Outside of a specific context this can be even even more difficult to describe.  

Through analysis of our case-study's problem, I was able to synthesize definable challenges contained therein and assign terms to describe them. By then cross-referencing these terms with the most prevalent actions associated with each of the standards sourced from our rubric, I had a basis on which I could research best practices. Analysis of available research in those areas, applied to the context of our study and case scenario provided me the means to construct a model for what the successful application of these standards might look like. Hence, a Problem Solving Job-Aid, constructed through a series of steps one might, in fact, define as problem solving. I had blended elements of a variety of approaches, applying reason and speculation to solve this problem and give a face to our version of successful problem solving.  


I believe this was an "aha moment" even if the aha was in retrospect.  I was not looking to necessarily “learn” during this process of the project. I'd expected to possibly sharpening my online research and information collection skills a bit, and maybe exercise some logic in drawing conclusions through matching appropriate clues from our study with definitions from our rubric.  (I was far too busy working on this project to stop and learn anything). Alas, I witnessed a natural process evolve during this process.  Out of my need to create this learning instrument, I applied a series of existing approaches to problem solving.  While I’d be hard pressed to build a rubric based on what I have described above, my experience, from an anecdotal standpoint gives me more to consider. Within the content of the question, I have discovered, often lies a germ of the solution.  This logically raises further questions.

Building an approach to problem solving based on an existing rubric, assumes the means of measurement (the rubric) determines the quality of this instrument (the job-aid).  But during this process if I do discover an approach to problem solving seemingly independent of the criteria measured within this rubric, can this rubric be used to measure how successful I am in accomplishing my task, or would they conflict?  And if they do, what does this than say say about my approach – was it not successful after all, or alternatively, might that mean the assumptions of our rubric are flawed?  Considering this challenge devolves from the concrete tasks of my study to something far more abstract (and potentially threatening to my faith in the validity of our primary instrument of evaluation). Fortunately my own experience does not negate the value of the information I had collected and included in the job-aid. But it does confirm to me that the process of seeking answers is an ambassador to more questions.


Problem Solving Values Rubric. Association of American Colleges and Universities. Retrieved Feb. 10, 2010